2019 Program Overview

The purpose of the USEF Developing Athlete Program for Combined Driving is to provide guidance and resources to cultivate selected athlete/horse combinations who display the potential to contribute to a medal winning Team score at Driving World Championships in the current and next quadrennial. Athletes wishing to be part of the Program will need to apply. Following application, the Driving Performance Manager will assess the athlete and if accepted on to the Program, performance and training targets will be agreed upon and re-assessed on a 6-month basis. Athletes’personal trainers are encouraged to attend all training sessions and collaborate with the Program. Accepted Developing Athletes will be expected to attend identified training and education sessions and must show continual improvement towards their targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to remain in the program. The USEF Developing Athlete Working Group oversees this program.

Minimum requirements for Eligibility

  1. Athlete must be a U.S. Citizen & maintain an active membership with the USEF
  2. All horse(s)/ponies admitted into the program must be recorded with USEF
  3. Within the last year, athlete/horse combinations must have completed a CDE at the Preliminary level or above in an ADS or USEF recognized event

Criteria given Preference

  1. Within the last year, athlete/horse combinations that have earned one of the following Dressage scores at an ADS or USEF recognized event: 45 points or less in Preliminary OR  50 points or less in Intermediate OR 60 points or less in USEF Advanced or FEI CAI 1*/2*
  2. Within the last year, athlete/horse combinations that have incurred only 10 penalty points or less in a Preliminary or Intermediate Cones competition at an ADS or USEF recognized event, OR 15 penalty points or less at Advanced or FEI CAI 1*/2*.
  3. Within the last year, athlete/horse combinations that have competed in at least two (2) CDEs at Preliminary or above in an ADS or USEF recognized event.
  4. Athlete/horse combinations committed to seeking out additional training opportunities


Application and Selection Process

Applications will be open twice a year, in January and again in June, with a 30-day application deadline.

Eligible athlete/horse combinations may apply via the ‘My USEF’ portal on www.usef.org. Eligibility and application to the program does not guarantee admittance. Accepted eligible applicants will receive one observation training session with the Driving Performance Manager either at a Developing Athlete clinic or a USEF recognized event. Observation training arrangements must be made through the Director of Driving, upon acceptance of an application.

Observation Training Session:

The Driving Performance Manager (or someone appointed by the Developing Athlete Working Group) will evaluate an athlete/horse combination during an observation training session for at least 45 minutes to determine if they possess the perceived ability to contribute to a medal winning Team score in the future. If an observation training session is taking place at a USEF event, the athlete’s competition performance may also be considered in the evaluation. Personal trainers are strongly encouraged to attend with their athletes.

The following factors will contribute to the evaluation of the athlete/horse combination:

      1. Demonstrated ability and trainability during the observation training session
      2. Results and the trajectory of results over the past year   (results from USEF licensed events will receive preference)
      3. The athlete’s preceding commitment to the sport, including competition schedule and seeking out additional training/lessons
      4. Behavior of the athlete and people associated with the athlete (including, but not limited to horse owners, coaches, grooms & partners) that may have an impact on creating a positive team environment


Membership to the Development Program

Following the observation training session, the Driving Performance Manager will consult with the Director of Driving & the USEF Developing Athlete Working Group. Athletes will be notified of their acceptance on to the Program. Names of athletes accepted on to the Program will be published on www.usef.org, on the combined driving Developing Athlete Program page, as well as in an annual USEF Press Release.

Benefits to Membership:

  • Competition planning and goal setting: short term and long term goals for the athlete and horse(s)
  • Training with a variety of appointed clinicians  (athlete’s personal trainers are encouraged to attend these sessions)
  • Training with a variety of qualified USEF Advanced Athletes & World Championship veterans
  • Ability to audit other training sessions, including the Elite Athlete Program sessions
  • Access to educational opportunities which will enhance the athlete’s competition performance
  • Exposure to mentors in the Elite Athlete Program
  • Support at identified USEF competitions
  • Develop camaraderie with possible future U.S. Team members

Maintaining Membership:

In order to maintain membership in the Developing Athlete program, athlete/horse combinations must meet the following requirements:

  1. Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and target goal markers with the Driving Performance Manager and with the athlete’s personal trainer
  2. Undergo a minimum of two annual reviews by the Driving Performance Manager, the Director of Driving and/or the USEF Developing Athlete Working Group
  3. Attend clinics as agreed with the Driving Performance Manager and the Director of Driving
  4. Participate in auditing all lessons when possible, and attending all educational seminars / courses
  5. Demonstrate a commitment to improvement through seeking out additional training opportunities
  6. Demonstrate a commitment to the program and learning opportunities
  7. Volunteer at driving events and support the growth of the sport
  8. Follow the USEF Code of Conduct & Safe Sport policy


Donate and Support

Donations for the USEF Developing Athlete program are managed by the United States Equestrian Team Foundation (USET) in Gladstone, New Jersey. Please contact the USET about the many different options to support this specific program: 908-234-1251

Donations can also be made online:  https://www.uset.org/home/donate-now/ 

Select "International Developing Driver Fund - Driving" for the Fund Destination. Thank you for contributing to our program for up-and-coming Athletes. 



Active USEF Members are welcome to audit the USEF Developing Athlete Clinics and Events, with the permission of the host facility, as long as each auditor’s behavior supports a positive learning environment.

Additional Resources

Current Developing Athlete Program Members

updated March 2019

Online Application instructions

How to apply online for USEF Combined Driving Programs

2019 Developing Athlete Program Overview

Approved November 2018

Developing Athlete Program Working Group

established to oversee the Developing Athlete Program